Remote Work in the Age of the Coronavirus

No doubt you have been following the progression of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, over the last few weeks. The expansion of the infectious disease across the globe has prompted millions to reconsider travel plans and take more preventative health measures like thoroughly washing hands and covering coughs. From a workplace standpoint, it has also led to temporary bans on work travel, cancelled events and conventions, and an increase in individuals working from home to avoid person-to-person contact.

For many, working remotely is already a familiar part of their lives. There are an estimated 60 million remote workers in the US, and a recent Global Workplace Analytics report showed that 40% more US companies offered remote work as an option in 2018 than they did 5 years prior. That is an encouraging trend, as it is widely reported that remote work and flexible work arrangements make for happier, healthier, and more productive employees. Still, for the majority of workers in this country, working from home is a rare (if not unprecedented) occurrence. The COVID-19 outbreak, however, is prompting many employers to reconsider or broaden existing policies on remote work to help prevent further spread of the virus.

Regardless of whether you are a full-time remote worker, part-time remote worker, or new to working remote in response to the current environment, there are certain pros and cons to consider:

PROS OF REMOTE WORKING

1. Flexibility

First and foremost, remote work allows for the flexibility to work whenever you choose, wherever you choose (within some boundaries, of course!). This gives workers the opportunity to prioritize other areas of their life, such as their health, their families, or other errands, when appropriate. We all have lives outside of work that sometimes need our attention!

2. Avoiding Office Distractions

We all know that one coworker who loves to stop and chit-chat for 5, 10, 15 minutes each day. Though building friendships in the workplace can be great, it also can lead to many unnecessary and time-consuming distractions. After factoring in office gossip, coffee breaks, and other unplanned office interactions, you can lose hours of productivity in a single day. Creating your own work environment helps you to eliminate those common distractions, allowing you to get your work done more efficiently.

3. Save Time and Money

Ah, the dreaded commute. Great for catching up on podcasts, bad for almost anything else. Remote work virtually eliminates your commute, saving you both time and money! In fact, many full-time remote workers are able to completely get rid of their cars, saving thousands of dollars a year. Also, for those with specific office dress codes, remote work helps you to save money on professional clothing purchases (no need for stuffy suits or pencil skirts!).

4. Opportunity to Spend More Time with Family

Work-life balance is something all of us desire, and a huge part of that is getting the opportunity to spend more time with those we love. Working remotely often means people are able to share more meals with their partner, attend more of their children’s school or sporting events, or even give more attention to their pets. Many of these are precious opportunities we can never get back.

CONS OF REMOTE WORKING

1. Collaboration and Communication

Let’s face it: even with advancements in chat software and virtual meeting technology, nothing can completely replace face-to-face interaction. That means that oftentimes remote workers suffer when it comes to collaboration and communication with teams and clients. It can also lead to increased feelings of loneliness, since they aren’t receiving the same kinds of constant social interactions that are common in a traditional office.

2. Internet Connectivity and Other IT Issues

Working remotely probably means that you don’t have the same administrative and/or technical support that you may be used to relying on in a traditional office setup. That means less direct help with troubleshooting WiFi connections, copying or printing documents, and many other common practical needs. Connecting to personal or public WiFi connections can also increase cybersecurity risk.

3. A Less-Than-Ideal Workspace

Though office workspaces can vary considerably, most people can count on having a spacious desk for their computer, a comfortable office chair, and a place to keep important documents. At home, you likely won’t have access to the same luxuries. For example, many people may be used to using multiple computer monitors in the office, which makes it easier to organize, reference, and complete tasks. They may also have external keyboards, mouses, and headsets at their disposal. Most remote work tends to be done on a laptop alone, which presents its own challenges when it comes to productivity. That is why we created the Xebec Tri-Screen to reduce some of those workspace frictions and make it easier to get your work done, wherever you are.

At Xebec, our mission is to set today’s professionals up for success, wherever work takes them. Though we are unsettled by the spread of the coronavirus on a human level, we also recognize the material impact this will have on the workplace and worker productivity around the world. Our hope is that this unfortunate situation will have a silver lining: more employers recognizing the benefit of flexible work arrangements and allowing for more remote work opportunities going forward.

Stay healthy, folks!